My rating: 5 of 5 stars
GENRE: Young Adult – Fiction
SYNOPSIS: After her parents go through a messy and very public divorce, Mclean moves in with her dad, whose job is to go into failing restaurants and either rehabilitate them, or determine whether they should just be closed. This means that she and her father end up moving…a lot. With each move, Mclean reinvents herself; Beth, Lizbet, Eliza; a new life, new personality, new way of being until the next move. Their most recent stop brings them to Westcott, FL, and even as she attempts to find who she is in this place, it’s just not coming to her – in the end she ends up being just Mclean, and finding out who that is, exactly.
REVIEW: I am a really big fan of Sarah Dessen. She writes books that are just perfect, they are always about working through tough situations and discovering who you are, mingled with just a enough romance and friends and fun. They almost always include good restaurants and music as well. The thing is, unlike many Young Adult books that are not fantasy/sci-fi/fantasy (which is completely different to me, because you are creating an impossible scenario and making it possible..hard to explain), Sarah Dessen’s characters always seem so incredibly real. She does not use “teen speak,” which, yes I’ve heard actual teen’s use “she’s, like…and he goes…,” it just sounds so awful in a book, and makes the characters seem superficial, two dimensional; exactly as they are – words on a page. Also, the characters have real issues that are so much more than surface. The biggest issue isn’t the dress someone is wearing to prom, or who’s dating whom. Sometimes a little bit of that stuff is included, but it’s not an all consuming topic. In addition, each character is so well developed, that you can picture them perfectly – maybe not exactly how she describes them (like, I can’t remember what color hair Mclean is suppose to have, etc) but her actions and personality just have created this version of Mclean that is perfectly formed, I didn’t really need all that detail. Same with Deb, and Heather, and Riley and Dave, even Gus and Opal. They are all people who now reside in my head. I have no idea if they look like what Sarah Dessen had picture, but it doesn’t matter. They are real and alive, a trick that it seems a lot of Young Adult writers lack.
This is probably my favorite book by Sarah Dessen, which is surprising. I love Just Listen and Along For The Ride, but with both of those books, I think I fell in love with the guy first and foremost. In What Happened to Goodbye I was completely involved with Mclean, and what she was going through. Her life wasn’t a mess, or even unusual – minus the fact that it was in the public eye. Her situation is one so many people can relate to in one way or another. I loved her character. I loved her willingness to accept everyone. So I was so focused on her, and her developing life in Westcott, I noticed Dave, but my focus wasn’t on him quite as much as I normally focus on the romantic plot. Regardless, Dave was so awesomely understanding, and patient. There was a scene in the book where he knew just what Mclean needed at the particular moment – (not sharing..not spoiling) but I literally got tears in my eyes because of his sweetness, and just thinking about how it made Mclean feel. (Yes, now it’s completely transparent how involved I was with these characters).
WHAT I LOVED: Mclean’s ability to accept everyone for who they are. At first I thought that she was going to feel the need to choose between Deb and her craziness, or Riley and her group of friends, but instead she brought everyone together and helped further extend the already eclectic band of friends.
NOT SO MUCH: The only fault I could find…..seriously…..there were a few typo mistakes in the e-book. That’s it. There was nothing I didn’t care about in the book. I LOVED this book!
SONG DEDICATION: “Today Is the Day, ” Tim Myers